JANESVILLE — COVID-19 rates continue to rise in Wisconsin, and closer to home, infection rates continue to increase in Rock County. Blackhawk Technical College started planning for the pandemic in late-Feb. and was quick to implement additional safety protocols.
The College has been diligent in its efforts to keep its students and employees safe. Those efforts will be increased in the days ahead to include offering flu shot clinics for students and employees, steps to enhance safety at all locations and implementing testing options at its Central Campus in Janesville.
“Our incident command team continues to monitor our situation very closely as we have seen a significant uptick in investigations following Labor Day,” said BTC’s President Dr. Tracy Pierner. “As a result of our extensive safety requirements, no community spread has occurred at Blackhawk. Our safety protocols are working. Wearing a facemask appropriately, staying six feet apart, good air exchange, and good hand hygiene and surface sanitization are essential to slowing the spread of the virus.”
Although there has not been spreading of the virus on campus, college officials are not slowing their response to the virus. Additional measures will be taken in the days ahead.
Medical professionals are predicting that they are facing a difficult flu season. Many influenza symptoms are similar to COVID-19 symptoms; therefore, the region will be fighting off two viruses that can be deadly to high-risk populations. Throughout October, BTC will offer free flu shots to its students and employees.
Throughout the pandemic, the college has implemented many safety protocols to help ensure the health and well-being of its students and employees. These include: requirement of facemasks inside all campus locations and outside when social distancing is not possible; increased and regular sanitization of shared workspaces and common areas; most BTC classes are offered in a flexible format called MyEdChoice, meaning students can choose to attend in-person or online for any given class; installation of Plexiglas protective shields at open or shared workstations; relocating employees whose workstations don’t allow for appropriate social distancing and many departments are now using staggered work schedules and some remote work to de-densify areas on campus.
BTC has seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 related investigations and is actively taking steps to increase testing. For its students and employees, the college has acquired and will provide the option of at-home test kits through the investigative process. Individuals will complete a lower nasal swab and mail in the specimen via a postage-paid UPS label. The results will be private and confidential.
In addition, the college is coordinating with the Wisconsin National Guard to offer free COVID-19 testing on campus. Testing will be offered on BTC’s Central Campus in Janesville beginning on Oct. 21 and will continue through Dec. 10. Testing will occur on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Drive-thru testing will be open to the community. No appointment is necessary, though pre-registration is recommended. Please pre-register at register.covidconnect.wi.gov. Due to limited testing supplies, up to 300 tests will be administered per testing day. There will be signs directing the community who will enter the testing site from Sunny Lane off County Road G. Please contact Rock County Emergency Management at 608-758-8440 with questions about the community testing.
Testing is a cooperative effort between Blackhawk Technical College, Rock County Public Health Department, Rock County Emergency Management and the Wisconsin National Guard. As a note, although they are confirming the dates above, it is important to recognize that these are subject to change based on needs identified by the COVID-19 Response Team as this response continues to evolve. In addition, they may be able to scale up additional support as they move forward if the need is evident.
Dr. Pierner added, “The leadership team here at Blackhawk is committed to a proactive, scientific approach to the safety and well-being of our students and employees. One of our primary goals from the beginning was to create many options for students so that they could choose how to best pursue their education. As such, the College has been open for business and fully operational since early-June.”
College officials continue to monitor the situation in cooperation with local and state public health officials and remain committed to taking an active role in keeping their community safe. Regular College updates regarding the pandemic are available at www.blackhawk.edu/coronavirus. Community-wide updates can be found at https://coronavirus-response-rockcountylio.hub.arcgis.com/.